According to CEO Norbert Niedworok, the technical requirements for telemedicine are fairly straightforward. The key to success lies more in the proper understanding of the medical processes involved and communicating these to caregivers and patients.
“Telemedicine solutions have been proposed with varying degrees of success by a number of companies, many of which have since disappeared from the market,” says Mr. Niedworok. “We base our solutions on medical guidelines in the first instance and have found this approach far more effective.”
vitaphone was founded in Mannheim by some innovative thinkers and a group of doctors in 1999. Its mission is to support medical providers in diagnosis decisions about treatments, raising patient compliance and monitoring treatment outcomes remotely.
Various studies have shown that there are subjective and objective benefits to keeping patients in a home care setting for as much of the time as possible.
“CHF patients, for example, need regular monitoring of certain parameters in order to ensure that their medications are in tune with their needs,” explains Mr. Niedworok. “Using our system, the patient would take the necessary measurements of blood pressure, weight, temperature or even an ECG and receive instant feedback from the machine that the data has been transmitted and received. This gives the patient a sense that he is being taken care of, and this, in turn, increases his confidence and can even improve his symptoms.”
This is why patients are involved in the development process of the equipment that they will be expected to use in their own homes. “We have received a lot of positive feedback from patients who feel that the peace of mind that our solutions give has improved their subjective sense of well-being,” adds Mr. Niedworok.
Specialized machines such as ECG monitors are developed internally by vitaphone. Standard equipment used to measure blood pressure or scales for weighing patients are sourced from partner companies. The data they collect is transmitted to a central server using a gateway that looks like and is as easy to use as a mobile phone.
From the server, the data is transmitted to the caregiver for immediate evaluation. “We do not provide emergency solutions; however, if a result throws up a red flag, the appropriate action can be taken,” says Mr. Niedworok.
vitaphone’s remote patient monitoring systems offer healthcare providers a cost-effective way to manage chronic conditions without clogging up emergency wards and doctor’s surgeries.
“Multiple studies have shown that remote patient monitoring reduces admissions and readmissions of congestive heart failure patients,” says Mr. Niedworok. “This not only reduces pressure on health services and the associated costs but gives patients back control over their own lives and more choice over their treatment options.”
The success of the company’s remote monitoring solutions means they have been extended to other areas such as cardiac event monitoring, patient-generated health data acquisition and even clinical trial services.
vitaphone has grown steadily over the past 15 years thanks to its pioneering solutions. In addition to its domestic market, it has developed export markets in Europe and the US. A subsidiary company, vitaphone USA, operates its own telemedicine service center based in Las Vegas from which it monitors and engages approximately 8,000 patients a year.
“Telemedicine is well-established in the US and is becoming more of an issue here in Germany as many doctors in rural practices retire without a successor,” says Mr. Niedworok. “In partnership with TeleArzt GmbH, we have developed a specially equipped rucksack with which a trained care assistant can travel to remote patients to collect data which can be remotely evaluated by their doctor. These are the kinds of solutions which will increasingly be needed in the future.”